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Turn your downsizing stress into strength

March 05, 2024


Welcome to the fourth article in this series dedicated to helping you to downsize, declutter and rightsize your life, brought to you by Ryman Healthcare with organising and decluttering expert Peter Walsh.  

Today, Peter talks about the main obstacles that keep people from downsizing and how to reframe them to work to your advantage, so you can discover the freedom that lies on the other side.


Previous articles in this series include:

Downsizing to a richer, happier life

How to downsize gifts and heirlooms

Declutter and organise photos with Peter Walsh


Reframe your ‘I’m losing something,’ obstacle

Downsizing can open the door to a new stage of your life that is rich in opportunity. However, it can be a daunting prospect. If you are embarking on a new chapter of life, the thought of shedding familiar possessions can feel even more stressful. This can be true even if the life changes are a good thing, such as a move somewhere you will love to live.


Once you understand why you have this feeling, you can reframe it as creating a new environment that will support your present life while reminding you of your best experiences.


By letting go of stuff that once fit who you are, but no longer does, you create space for things and experiences that reflect who you are and what you value today.


You’ll gain more than you thought possible because you are editing yourself honestly. You’re cutting out the stuff that you no longer care about, letting go of parts of your life that no longer fit, and turning the spotlight onto the parts that you want to receive more attention.


By reallocating the focus you give to different areas of your life, you can spend more time on the things that you truly value in the present day. While it’s easier to hold onto the old, it’s by embracing the new that we grow.




Reframe your ‘I don’t have time,’ obstacle

Over the years Peter has been helping people declutter their home, one of the most common excuses he has heard from people is, “I don’t have enough time.”


In those situations, Peter usually counters with, “You make time for what you think is important.”


If something is truly important to you, such as creating space for a life that works for you, you’ll find time for it. There are also time-saving tricks you can use to make the process quicker.


Always sort like things together

For example, if you have six pairs of reading glasses gather them together, choose the best one or two pairs, then let the rest go.


Leave certain things for last

Photos, scrapbooks, and personal letters and documents usually create the greatest distraction and are often the slowest to sort through. Temporarily delay sorting them until everything else is done.


Pace yourself and set the right target

Doing too much and aiming for perfection will lead to exhaustion and decluttering burnout. You are better off decluttering for an hour or two each day over several weeks than to try and race through it all in a weekend. Aim for good enough, not perfection, and you’ll get the job done.




Reframe your family dynamics obstacle

We’ve talked about the emotions that downsizing or decluttering might bring up in you. But what about your family members? Sometimes family dynamics can get in the way of downsizing.


The thought of family conflict and tension is unsettling, but it can be a reason to welcome the process.


If someone is being difficult about downsizing, it is worth digging deeper to find out what emotion or value is behind their actions. When you understand why people are attached to certain objects, you come to know them on a deeper level.


While it may take some patience, as long as you can remain open and curious, and come from a place of love and understanding, you have a chance to learn things about your loved ones that you never knew. Remember, you don’t need to aim for perfect solutions, just good enough.


Reframe your ‘this is emotionally painful,’ obstacle

The thought of downsizing can bring up uncomfortable emotions such as sadness, anxiety, and guilt, which often present as fear. Some common fears are the fear of making the wrong decision and fear of losing your memories.


While you may know in your heart that downsizing will be good for you, you may still feel sadness. This is perfectly natural. Downsizing may remind you of loved ones who are no longer here, or of old hopes and dreams that are no longer possible. You may feel anxious about the future and wonder if you’re making the right decision. The guilt of parting with certain things can also be difficult, particularly if those things are associated with a loved one.


Fear of making the wrong decision

A way to reframe these fears is to accept that your downsizing journey won’t be perfect, but if you are consistently heading in the right direction, a misstep here and there won’t stop you from getting to where you need to go. Often detours are the best part of a long journey!


Fear of losing your memories

If you are afraid of losing your memories, curate your possessions rather than holding on to all of them or letting everything go. You don’t need all your mother’s figurine collection or your grown children’s Lego models to retain the memories, but you can keep your favourite pieces to display, and give away or sell the rest.




The reward of downsizing

Downsizing can be difficult and is certainly challenging. However, the ‘hard’ of downsizing is infinitely preferable to the ‘hard’ of living surrounded by items that no longer bring you joy or have meaning for the life you want to live.


You may fear that downsizing will be painful – and at times it might be – but when you let go of stuff that weighs you down emotionally and physically, you are free to move unburdened into an exciting future that you create and to experience adventures in a life that is truly yours.


That is a gift that downsizing can bring – a wonderful feeling of freedom and lightness for you and for your loved ones.



About Peter: 

Peter is the author of seven popular decluttering and organising books, including two New York Times bestsellers. His most recent book Let It Go: Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier Life is a step-by-step handbook for successful downsizing.


Born and raised in Australia, he moved to the US in the 1990s and started his first series, Clean Sweep, for Discovery’s TLC Network.


After 120 episodes of that show, The Oprah Winfrey Show put Peter under contract, and he was a regular guest on her show for the final five seasons.


He’s currently working on the fifth season of his Australian series Space Invaders